Chapter 90

Chapter 90

Swordmaster Zane:

Along the ceiling vine-networks overlooking the subterranean forests, Zane lead at a fierce pace. Step after upward step, his muscles had long since fallen into the regular and established rhythm he'd often trained for, strength pushing him on along the twists and turns of the wooden and twisting halls.

Glowstone in hand, the glass illuminated those strange walls with a peaceful light, odd shadows muffled and catching the hand-scratched carvings of instructions and guides throughout the ages. Some were almost polished away, etchings barely slivers in the fiber, while others looked fresh: almost brand new. Zan stared with intensity as he passed these by, but in the end it was Daxton who called out for his attention with true findings.

"They posted a seal! Far-left tunnel!" Daxton shouted from down the ways, echoing stomps of heavy boots plodding along back to the agreed intersection. "It looks like they were trying for one of the larger-tribes in the center-region." His spear dropped with a loud thump against the floor as he raised up the wax coated parchment for Zane to read himself.

"Lukra then... It's got to be." Zane hissed with displeasure, mind racing ahead. "They're not confident enough yet to head directly there, so we've got a good chance at catching them before they reach a downward route. If we're lucky, they'll still be making their way towards the center." Zane took the paper and scanned it over once more before reaching into the small pouch on his belt and pulling out a portion of chalk to mark a quick symbol alongside it and handing it back. "Post it back up, we'll move out from there. Double pace."

 

"Yes sir." Daxton replied, voice determined.

As they began again, Zane took lead down the twists and turns- more than living up to his command. Double-pace, glow stone lofted barely enough to properly illuminate more than twenty paces in either direction: Twice he stumbled direction into a monster's den along the passage-way, and twice his sword struck down any foes that happened to make effort to slow their pace. Still, as the hours stretched on, and Daxton's heavy breath made echoes through the confined tunnels and winding-nature of the root-passages, Zane found himself forced to slow.

They could not afford injury, and without Daxton, Zane's options for rescuing multiple injured would be greatly reduced. Three younglings, especially injured, would be a severe test to his capacity alone.

"We'll make camp along the next open passageway. I'll take first watch." Zane spoke quietly, slowing his jog to a brisk walk as they turned the next bend. Glow-stone raised up to confirm, the markings carved matched those of his memory: Not a safe zone, but a relative refuge.

They could rest here, if only for the night.

"Yes sir." Daxton replied, grateful as he sat down with a loud clunk of armor and weight. Leaning his spear against the wood behind him, he sat back, breathing still not quite settled from the exertion of the day's travelling. In the moments that followed, as Zane scouted to final edge of the hall, he was soundly asleep.

There was skill Zane considered no less desirable than mastery of any martial weapon: To be capable of slumber at a moment's notice. In a Dungeon, even in the weaker zones, it was truly a blessing only given to the rarest few. Even now, having been an Adventurer for most of his adult life, having aquired skills some might only dream of: Zane still needed time to find himself at rest outside a sanctuary.

Even then, it would not be true sleep. Not like the peaceful snores of his companion in the distance, anyways.

Setting himself to meditative stance, Zane watched and waited, focusing on the air and sounds within the root-carved tunnels. Reaching out, he sensed for motion, awaiting its presence in any of the usual forms.

Though monsters were far less common in this area, there were still some beasts which roamed the ceiling highways- especially off the beaten trails and among the smaller routes Zane and Daxton now rested. Though not a threat to someone of Zane's own caliber, an ambush could wound or maim even the strongest of warrior.

So he focused, and listened.

To the far off echoes of distant things too far to understand or identify.

To the brush of faint wind, whipping in from the open air passages off in the far-off routes they had no need to take.

To the strange rumblings overhead. The many... strange rumblings.

As if distant explosions were crashing atop and among the Great trees of that dreaded forest, Zane could feel them shaking through and rippling along the ceiling and the roots. Even their path, carved from within the excessive size of a great-root seemed to trembled at the onslaught.

A battle of behemoths was undoubtedly occurring. Forces of true power, than few could ever hope to rival. Beast that might make even Zane falter with fear. There were many reasons that men remained apart from the Great Forest. Such was the realm of Elves or beasts, where human-kind had even less of a place than the Dungeons beneath that cursed soil.

Another thunderous boom rippled on through the ceiling and wood, shaking beneath and around them enough to rock Daxton's spear from its resting place along the wall- perhaps waking him with a loud clatter if not for Zane's intervention- trained hand catching it and setting it quietly on the floor instead.

There were things more powerful than any man.

On nights such as this, Zane found he needed little to remind him.